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Multiplication in Action: The Story of One Planted Church

By Lydia Gingerich

RMM is excited to be part of CMC’s new commitment to multiply disciples and churches, not only internationally but here in North America as well. Larry Kaufman leads a team that is helping to move us from ideas to action. The following story recounts what God is doing through a group of young adults who have moved from idea to action in Columbus, Ohio. Many of these people were students at Rosedale Bible College and are now working together to see what God will multiply through them.

Quiet Beginnings

As I walked down the steps into the basement of the apartment building next to mine, I was reminded of the missionary stories my parents read to me growing up. The midnight meetings underground had a specific anxious and exciting feel to them that I detected in myself as I entered the room full of my dear brothers and sisters. We had been talking about this “church plant” for a while, but it felt more real now that we were having a scheduled meeting with a typed outline and several older and wiser folks dispersed among the circle.

At that meeting in late March, we began to tread the waters of starting a church. Where and when would we meet? How will the church be structured? Who will join us? Why do we feel compelled to do this? While many of these questions were asked without a clear or comprehensive answer, we all agreed on the last one: God was moving in our neighborhood, and to best join his work, we would need encouragement from brothers and sisters, a setting for discipleship, a time to discern his will as a group, and a place to worship him together; we would need a church.

While we all attended churches that were already providing us these things, we felt it was important for church to be close. Most of us were driving thirty minutes every Sunday morning to be a part of churches which had doctrines and communities we valued. What if we planted a church with those same principles right here? Rod Dreher, in Christianity Today’s March 2017 edition, lays out a compelling case for living in close proximity to those with whom you worship:

"Why be close? Because … the church can’t just be the place you go on Sundays—it must become the center of your life. That is, you may visit your house of worship only once a week, but what happens there in worship, and the community and the culture it creates, must be the things around which you order the rest of the week.”
Dreher goes on to caution that “community itself won’t make you holy if you aren’t committed to prayer and cultivating a personal relationship with Jesus, [but] the gift of community is that it builds a social structure in which it is easier for Christians to hear and respond to God’s voice and in which others hold them accountable if they lose the straight path.” With the work we are joining in Columbus, it feels important to have that centrality, community, and accountability.

Since that meeting in March, we have been gathering for prayer and discernment and trying to answer the questions we initially raised. Our vision is that people who identify with this church grow in faith, maturity, obedience, and be involved in outreach with a focus on a) unreached people groups from all over the world who reside near us, b) the universities we attend, and c) inner-city initiatives bringing the love and salvation of Jesus to this city.

This story was first published in London Christian Fellowship’s June newsletter.

Making it Official

As we prayed about where, how and with whom we would start a church, God gave us answers in the form of a small conference room we could rent, a group of committed planters, and assistance from other CMC churches in the area. We decided to call ourselves Olentangy (O-len-TAN-gee) Mennonite Church (OMC) after a river that runs near where many of us live. OMC started meeting together as a registered CMC church on July 9, 2017, under the leadership and blessing of both London Christian Fellowship and Shiloh Mennonite Church.

Three Months In

About thirty of us have been gathering together every Sunday morning since July. We have broken bread together, hosted guests as a congregation, and walked with one another through new jobs, new houses, and new babies. Fellowship has extended from the church building to campfires, picnics, and game nights. We have encouraged each other to expand the Kingdom and we have prayed for friends and family who do not yet believe. In our small and concentrated setting, we have been able to discuss difficult and direct questions as we study the Bible together.

In our first meeting, we were challenged to get out of our comfort zones. We discussed questions about community living: 1) Are we comfortable opening ourselves up to correction? 2) Are we comfortable laying aside our opinion for the sake of the group? We also talked about how to handle outreach as a church: 1) Are we comfortable discussing absolute truth in a society that values tolerance? 2) Are we comfortable dedicating considerable time to prayer for the lost? 3) Are we comfortable holding our cultural norms loosely for the sake of identifying with people from different backgrounds?

“The more people who are actually doing it, the more tangible that will feel for other congregations.” We are working to hold one another accountable to acting on these values both personally and as a group, but it is not always easy. One benefit we are enjoying is our youthfulness. We have vision, time, and energy to tackle the hurdles of starting a new church. While the group is young, Andrew has been blessed by the discipleship nature of our congregation. “The way we’ve structured things allows more people to be involved, develop gifts, and grow. The community is doing a good job at letting their needs be known, which I think doesn’t always happen (it takes some humility), but also in responding when people do let us know about needs. I’ve been very happy to see that give and take from people.”
Earlier this year CMC adopted a new commission to mature and multiply churches locally and globally. One piece of that multiplication is planting churches. Andrew notes the importance of talking about what we are doing at OMC. “The more people who are actually doing it, the more tangible planting churches will feel for other congregations. I think everybody’s process is unique and I don’t think it would be that easy to replicate what we’ve done. I don’t really see this as a How To – just that somebody’s trying; that should be helpful.”

As we continue to build community and reach out to the hurting people around us, we pray that the Holy Spirit will control and consume us, helping us in our weakness and encouraging our strengths.

Please keep this group in your prayers as they seek to know Christ and make him known in Columbus, Ohio.